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Baa Baa Black Sheep

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By Helen Bromleyfreelance consultant and writer

We’ve teamed up with Yellow Door to bring you a mini series of some exciting nursery rhyme interactive resources and activities for the children to enjoy


It is difficult to imagine a childhood without nursery rhymes. Used to soothe, entertain and educate babies and young children, they form an integral and important part of our cultural heritage, and are central to children’s language development.

The sharing of rhymes in the company of an enthusiastic adult, both at home and in a childcare setting, develops a positive attitude towards communication and teaches children that sharing spoken or written texts is deeply pleasurable. Once learned, a child can take their nursery rhyme with them wherever they go – a small piece of poetry whenever and wherever they need it.

In this first article, Helen Bromley explores ideas for talking about wool and the number three, as well as musical activities and playing with the rhyme.

1. Enjoy the rhyme

Use the song with the whole group for the children to sing along to. Alternatively, sing the song in two parts, with one group singing the question and the other group singing the answer. Provide a range of percussion instruments for the children to compose their own accompaniments to the song.

Talk about any words in the rhyme that the children are unfamiliar with, such as ‘master’ and ‘dame’. If appropriate, explore other rhymes with a master and a dame, such as ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo! My Dame has Lost Her Shoe’.

Do the children know what a ‘lane’ is? Explain that it is usually associated with the countryside. Lead into a discussion about the different places where the children live. Do any of them live in a lane? Collect words such as ‘street’, ‘avenue’, ‘close’, ‘road’, ‘walk’, ‘terrace’ and ‘cul-de-sac’. If possible, ask the children to bring in photographs of their street sign name.

2. Rhyme book

Invite the children to make up some actions to go with the rhyme, then take photographs to create a unique book for your book corner.

Work with the children to decide how to stage each line of the chosen rhyme. Keep it simple, for example:

  • Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, have you any wool? Invite a child to be Baa Baa Black Sheep, and another to ask the question. Ask the children to position themselves in a freeze frame so that you can take a photograph to illustrate this line of the nursery rhyme.
  • Yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full. The child who is the sheep should show you three bags of wool while you take a photograph.
  • One for the master, and one for the dame. Ask a child to be the master and another to be the dame, each holding a bag of wool as you take a photograph.
  • And one for the little boy who lives down the lane. Encourage a little boy to hold a bag of wool, then take the photograph.

Print the photographs and stick them into a blank book, then add the lines of the rhyme underneath each one. Leave it in the book corner for the children to explore independently. They will be highly motivated to read it and see themselves in the illustrations.

3. Three bags full

‘Picture play’ offers a simple way for the children to retell the nursery rhyme. They can move the characters around on screen, matching the bags of wool to the master, the dame and the little boy, and click on the button to make the sheep nod his head. Draw the children’s attention to the colours of the scarves and the ties on the bags of wool, and talk about how there are three bags and three people.

Develop the rhyme into investigating the number three. Look for rhymes and stories that feature the number three, and work with triangles, tricycles and tripods. Give the children the opportunity to talk about what the number three means to them; perhaps they have the number three on their door at home, or on a birthday card. Collect their statements and make a ‘Number three’ display.

Useful books

  • When Sheep Cannot Sleep – The Counting Book by Satoshi Kitamura (Red Fox).
  • Marvin Wanted More! by Joseph Theobald (Bloomsbury).
  • The 108th Sheep by Ayano Imai (Bloomsbury).
  • Russell the Sheep by Rob Scotton (Harper Collins).

4. Have you any wool?

Ask the children to bring in any items made from wool that they may have at home, and make a collection for them to explore. What different items are there? How many different types of wool are there? Use your collection for sorting, counting and matching activities.

Reader offer

10% discount on orders of Come Alive Nursery Rhymes

These ideas and activities are tasters from one of the eight nursery rhymes featured in the Come Alive Nursery Rhymes: Games and Activities Pack and Interactive CD-ROM by Helen Bromley. They are reproduced here by kind permission of Yellow Door. Visit or call 0845 603 5309.

Think about different ways in which people and animals keep warm. How can we keep both warm and waterproof?

Invite a parent or carer who can knit, crochet or weave into your setting to talk about and demonstrate some skills associated with wool to the children. Take photographs of the visit and display them near to your collection of woollen items.

Give the children the opportunity to explore the weaving process using wool and a range of natural and synthetic materials. Provide a variety of weaving frames, indoors and out.